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Azkals keeper Etheridge begins journey with Birmingham City

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FILIPINO-ENGLISH GOALKEEPER and Philippine Azkals member Neil Etheridge made his debut with Birmingham City FC at the weekend. — BIRMINGHAM CITY FC FACEBOOK PAGE

PHILIPPINE AZKALS goalkeeper Neil Etheridge began his journey with Birmingham City FC in the English Football League Championship in steady fashion, helping his club to a 0-0 draw against Swansea City in his debut at the weekend.

It was a start that he wants to build on as his career with the Blues takes form.

Recently signed with Birmingham after playing with Cardiff City for three years, Filipino-English Etheridge, 30, said he was looking forward to the opportunity of playing for his new club and overcoming the challenges ahead of them.

“I enjoyed my stay in Cardiff, but the chance to play for Birmingham came and as a professional, you just want to play. So, I decided to sign up with them and get some stability. We have some bumps we need to get over on the road, but I’m excited,” said Mr. Etheridge, who saw himself on the bench in his final season with Cardiff in favour of English keeper Alex Smithies.

The Azkals keeper, part of the Philippine squad that fashioned out the “Miracle in Hanoi” in 2010 that lit a renaissance in local football, said he is using his move to Birmingham as a fresh start.

It is something he is determined to work, banking, among other things, on his experience and willingness to learn.

“It’s a new adventure for me, a fresh beginning. Birmingham being a massive club, a massive city here in England, I just want to prove to everyone what I’m capable of,” he said.

“I hope to bring some experience to Birmingham and learn quicker and adjust,” he added.

Following his debut on Sunday (Manila time), Mr. Etheridge said he was satisfied with his performance while also giving credit to his teammates.

“It was great for me to keep a clean sheet and make those sort of saves. Ultimately, it’s about the team. The boys at the back did a fantastic job,” he said in a post on the Birmingham Facebook page.

As a member of the Philippine national team, he has seen action 65 times. He last played for the Azkals in November last year in the World Cup Asian qualifiers against Syria where they lost, 1-0.

The Azkals are currently in third spot in Group A of the joint qualifiers with seven points built on a 2-1-2 record.

Syria (5-0-0) is on top of the heap with 15 points, followed by China (2-1-1) with seven. Maldives (2-0-3) is fourth with six points while Guam (0-0-5) has no points and is already eliminated in the race. — Michael Angelo S. Murillo

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